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This article was originally published in issue #25
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Washburn is a company with a very long history in the guitar business. Its Lakeside Jumbo acoustic was originally introduced in 1912 and is considered by some to be the first Dreadnought, bridging the gap between the small parlour guitars from the turn of the 20th century and more modern jumbo acoustic guitars. Washburn has recently reissued the Lakeside series in a range of models covering traditional acoustic designs and even baritone models for more modern sounds, all featuring solid wood tops and a vintage style. The company sent us their traditional LSJ743SK jumbo and LSB768SEK Baritone models to check out.
The first thing that strikes you upon pulling the LSJ743SK out of its well made case is the sheer size of its body. This is a jumbo guitar in every sense of the word, with a very wide and deep dreadnought-shaped body that aims to project an equally wide and deep sonic range. The guitar is constructed with rosewood back and sides, matched with a solid Sitka spruce top and quarter sawn scalloped bracing for added strength and support. The rosewood grain is attractive with a gloss finish adding a real quality feel and look to the instrument that matches well with the retro styling.
Washburn has chosen a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard with vintage dot and diamond inlays and a traditional shaped headstock featuring, Wilkinson tuners with butterbean buttons. The design is completed by a rosewood bridge, bone nut and saddles plus an ABS Rosette adding up to high quality components, very welcome to find at this price point.
Overall the LSJ743SK is a very attractive guitar. Although some will prefer more modern visual appointments, like a more streamlined headstock and a smaller depth to the body, retro-styling is hugely fashionable at the moment and this is a sensitive update from it design roots which we feel is going to appeal to a lot of players. The only niggle would be the lack of a pickup and pre-amp in the package, a strange omission given that other guitars in the range feature the Fishman Sonitone and the LSJ743SK would have benefitted considerably from this addition. As it is, potential buyers will need to factor this into their decision and possibly add the price of a pickup to their budget.
On the other hand, the addition of a very good hard case adds considerable extra value to this guitar in a world where low to mid priced guitars are all too often sold to you in a cardboard box and no more, so you get a case, but need to add a pickup. Mind you, there is another angle to this. At least you get to choose which pickup you would fit!
This is a very well made and finished guitar with a quality feel that matches the well chosen components. All of the workmanship is top notch with no obvious issues and a sense that care has been taken throughout the built process. Internally, the bracing of the LSJ743SK is very clean, representing a level of build that could be considered higher than the price point might suggest and giving more confidence that this is a high quality instrument. Washburn realises that even the more budget minded acoustic purchaser is discerning enough to require a solid wood top these days and the choice of solid Sitka spruce means that the guitar not only sounds good but will improve over time and offer lasting value and tone for the buyer. The fretwork on our sample was also of a very high quality with no flaws, good intonation and tuning stability throughout the range of the neck.
Playability feels very good on this Lakeside jumbo too, and, in general, the LSJ743SK is a very comfortable guitar in the hands. Some may find the body depth a little too much, especially those with a smaller frame or shorter arms, but the overall experience is an accommodating and pleasant one with a good factory set-up, 25.5” scale length and friendly neck shape for both chordal and single note work.
Tonally, the Sitka spruce top offers a rich tone with plenty of dynamics but isn’t quite a loud as you might expect given the large body size and depth. It’s certainly not quiet but just doesn’t project as much as initial impressions might suggest. Pick dynamics are well represented and there is a good balance between low and high frequencies, making the LSJ743SK sound great with miked-up tones.
This is a very solid and well made guitar from a company with a great deal of history and experience. It certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but it doesn't set out to, being designed to appeal to players hankering after a very traditional look - and there are plenty of those these days. The inclusion of a hard case goes a long way to making a good value package that looks, plays and sounds top notch but I still would have liked to have seen an onboard pre-amp.